National Geographic : 2019 Sep
BREAKTHROUGHS | EMBARK DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT LINES OF SCIENCE AND INNOVATION PHOTOS (FROM TOP): STEFAN WERMUTH, UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS BERN; HOOD MUSEUM OF ART, DARTMOUTH: HARRY A. FRANKLIN FAMILY COLLECTION, PHOTOS BY JEFFREY NINTZEL; HEMIS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO IN A SOUTHERN INDIAN FOREST, an amateur photographer spied a multicolored rodent. The pictures he took set the internet alight last April, and no wonder: Indian giant squirrels can weigh four pounds and stretch three feet from tail to snout—half again (at least) the size of most Euro- pean and North American squirrels. Unlike those northern nibblers, these behemoths forage in the tropical canopy, where their flexible feet and ankles allow them to leap 20 feet from branch to branch. The vibrant fur may provide camouflage “in the mosaic of shade and sun flecks where these arboreal giants thrive,” says John Koprowski, author of Squirrels of the World. Or, says evolutionary biolo- gist Dana Krempels, “there could be an evolutionary ‘tightrope’ that the squirrels must walk”—bright enough for other giant squirrels to spot, but not so bright that predators notice. —JEREM Y BERLIN ANIMALS TECHNICOLOR SQUIRRELS NATIVE TO TROPICAL INDIA, THESE SQUIRRELS FAR OUTDO OTHERS IN SIZE—AND HUE CULTURE Why Warriors Wielded Human Bones New Guinean men once warred with daggers made from cassowary—or human— bones. Anthropologist Nathaniel Dominy tested the strength of both types of weapon. He likens the bird- bone dagger (left) to a Timex watch: “It works just as well, but if it breaks, then it is easy to replace.” Daggers crafted from human femurs “are a bit like a Rolex watch—a prestige object and status symbol that one would rather not damage.”—JB Hip-hop makes cheese funky Swiss researchers exposed wheels of Emmentaler to different genres of music. Six months later they did a taste test. The wheel with the strongest aroma and flavor was the one that had “listened” to A Tribe Called Quest. A jury of culinary experts confirmed the investigators’ conclusions.